Tu B’Shevat is many things: Ancient tax festival, kabbalistic celebration of nature, communal birthday of all trees, and contemporarily: a sort of Jewish Earth Day, a call for conversations about sustainability and our duty to protect the natural world.
Borrowing a little bit from each tradition (except maybe the taxes part), I am celebrating the birthday of the several hundred worms that currently live in my pantry.
Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence posted a short video on his social media channels to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. The clip contained an excerpt from his recent speech to the Israeli Knesset and was accompanied by what appeared to be a bizarre quotation from it:
2017 was a big year for Tiffany Haddish. The 38 year-old comedian released a memoir that made TheNew York Times best-seller list, became the first black female stand-up to ever host Saturday Night Live, and starred in Girls Trip, which would’ve netted her an Oscar nomination in a just universe.
There’s a lot on the horizon this year for Haddish–her new TBS show with Tracy Morgan and a comedy with Kevin Hart debut this year. In the meantime, she was on Drunk History last week, talking about Rose Valland (for the uninitiated, Drunk History features actors and comedians drinking as they try to relay sensational events in history).
At the recent second Women’s March, New York participants saw a banner held aloft with a hand-lettered Yiddish message, helpfully transliterated and translated into English. The transliteration read “Mir Velen Zei Iberleben”; and the translation, “We Will Outlive Them.”
The banner didn’t specify who the intended “them” might be (not men, I hope–though, of course, women do tend to live longer than those of us burdened with Y chromosomes). As to the legend on the banner, well, therein lies a tale, and it is a moving one.
Just before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the lower house of the Polish parliament voted in favor of a bill that condemns anyone who acknowledges Polish complicity in the Holocaust to up to three years in prison. According to the Polish state narrative, the Holocaust was an entirely German affair, and both the Polish government and the Polish people are entirely innocent of it. Although I was dismayed to learn this news, I was hardly surprised. After spending some time in Poland this month, I would expect no better.
Before leaving the United States, I researched the history of the Holocaust in Poland and quickly began to suspect the Polish government of whitewashing. For example, the website of the State Museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau includes an Orwellian tool called “Remember.” It invites visitors “to correct collective memory errors” by reporting journalists who use the phrase “Polish death camp”—referring to death camps established by the Nazis on Polish soil, sometimes in Polish cities, where Jews who were turned in by their Polish neighbors and others were sent to their deaths—to the Polish authorities. I also read about efforts by Polish politicians to discredit and silence those who have dared to tell the story of Jedwabne, the site of a particularly egregious pogrom perpetrated by Poles against their Jewish neighbors and culminating in the burning alive of more than 300 Jews in a barn (over 1,500 total were murdered). By the time that I boarded the plane to Europe, I was very wary of the intentions of the Polish state in retaining control over the Holocaust-related sites I was planning to visit.
Way back in the early days of Laughing Squid, before I launched this blog, I used to shoot a lot of video, documenting events in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the country. You may not realize this, but Laughing Squid originally started out as a film and video company, producing documentaries on the surrealist painter Alonso Smith and The Cacophony Society’s Portland Santacon ’96 event.
I’m finally working on digitizing all of the old video I shot during those days, the bulk of which was on HI8 from 1995 to 1999, with some MiniDV from 2001-2003. It’s taken me 15 years to finally get this project going. In a way it’s been worth the wait. File storage is super cheap now and it’s really easy to share online. In the old days I would make VHS dubs to give to people, so we’ve come a long way.
The plan is to slowly work through my stack of tapes throughout the year, occasionally sharing interesting clips as I along the way on the Laughing Squid YouTube channel. The first project is digitizing all 48 hours I shot of Burning Man 1996, both before the event in San Francisco and on the Playa.
Has your cat got in the way when you’re doing the housework? Just as you finish tidying up they stroll in and within seconds they have completely undone all your hard work? Yes, the Simon’s Cat Team know this all too well!
In a humorous video essay, filmmaker Karsten Runquist explains the critical significance of a taking the time to create a good title so that the film will stay in the respective memories of audience members for a long time.
Not only is making titles fun, I feel making titles is one of the most important parts of the process especially when we’re talking about movies. Now I understand the name of a film is quite possibly the smallest detail a filmmaker can think of when putting together a movie but at the same time it’s one of the most significant.
Crochet is not generally viewed as a fine art, nor is it commonly used as a vehicle for social change. But New York-based artist Agata Oleksiak (aka Olek) is challenging those assumptions by elevating the craft and using it as a force for community building. With the streets as her canvas, Olek uses the help of local volunteers to crochet her large-scale crochet masterpieces.